Four in five children of mothers infected in early pregnancy with a herpes virus were found in a Belgian study to suffer from hearing damages. The mothers were among the up to four percent of all pregnant women who become infected with the cytomegalovirus.
Cytomegalovirus is found in more than half of the total population. The virus rarely causes symptoms in healthy adults. But when transmitted from mother to child in the first three months of pregnancy, it may cause problems.
The Belgian study found that four in five of these children developed sensorineural hearing loss because their mothers were infected by the virus in the first three months of pregnancy. In a foetus, the ears develop mainly between the third and tenth weeks of pregnancy. This is likely to make the ears particularly sensitive to viral infections at this stage.
When the viral infection occurs later in pregnancy, the risk to the hearing of the child is smaller. Just one child in 12 born to mothers infected during the second trimester of pregnancy was found to suffer from hearing loss. No hearing loss was found in children whose mothers were infected in the third trimester of pregnancy.
Frequent hand washing
According to the United States National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between one and four percent of pregnant women are infected with cytomegalovirus.
Cytomegalovirus spreads from person to person through body fluids. Frequent hand washing with soap, particularly following potential contact with the body fluids of others, can reduce the risk of infection and is recommended for all pregnant women by the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Source: Pediatrics; www.cdc.gov
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